Principle Investigator

Principle Investigator

Dr. Santiago Morales 

Santiago Morales is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at USC. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. in Developmental Psychology with a specialization in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience from The Pennsylvania State University and B.A. in Neuroscience from Hiram College, OH. He  also did a postdoc with Dr. Nathan Fox at the University of Maryland.

Dr. Morales’ research examines individual differences in the development of emotion and emotion regulation – often conceptualized as temperament. His research focuses on the impact that these early individual differences have on socioemotional development, especially with regards to the development of internalizing and externalizing psychopathology. He is also interested in identifying factors, such as how children process social information, that help us determine which children at temperamental risk go on to develop socioemotional problems. For more information about his research look at his personal website: www.santiagomorales.net

Graduate Students

Graduate Student

Alexis Hernandez

Alexis Hernandez is a PhD student at the University of Southern California. She received her M.S. in Psychology from Western Kentucky University and her B.S. in Brain and Behavioral Sciences from Purdue University. She is interested in examining risk factors in early childhood in relation to the development of psychopathology. Specifically, examining emotion regulation, parenting, and genetic biomarkers as predictors for psychopathology. Her interests stem from prior research experiences as an undergraduate studying frontal-alpha asymmetry and approach motivation in mother-infant dyads with Dr. Dan Foti, and her master’s work in the Children and Families Lab with Dr. Diane Lickenbrock. Her thesis examined the interactions of parent psychopathology and parental resources on infant affect regulation with mothers and fathers.

Email: alexismh@usc.edu

Graduate Student

Sherry Zhang

Sherry is a 4th year PhD student. Sherry’s main research interests are in visual perception, attention, and short-term memory. Her current research focuses on exploring the limits of rapidly shown visual stimuli and how the messages can be encoded and understood by the rest of the brain.

Email: sherryzh@usc.edu

Graduate Student

Wenyi (Echo) Xu

Echo is a Psychology Ph.D. student at USC. She received her bachelor’s degree in Brain and Cognitive Science from the University of Pennsylvania. Her current research interests are exploring how children process social information, as well as finding predictors for childhood psychopathology. She also hopes to intergrade behavior and neuroscience measures to understand the development of emotion and emotion regulation. In her future research, Echo hopes to find factors that could help predict and identify children with the risk of developing socioemotional problems. She was born in Shanghai, China, and moved to Rochester, New York five years ago. Outside academia, she also enjoyed dancing, cooking, and theater arts.

Email: wenyix@usc.edu

Graduate Student

Alexa Monachino

Alexa is a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student at USC. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research interests center around developmental psychopathology and neuroscience. In particular, she is interested in the interactions between the brain and the environment in relation to the development of psychopathology and the neurobiological mechanisms of risk and resilience, specifically in contexts of trauma and early adversity.

Email: monachin@usc.edu

Lab Manager

Lab Manager

Melanie Kwan

Melanie graduated with honors in Psychology from USC in 2023. At USC, she has worked at research labs like the Family Studies Project, the Child Interviewing Lab, and completed an honors thesis examining sibling relationships and recantations. Melanie’s research interests pertain to understanding how early adversity affects development and developing evidence-based interventions to help individuals cope with trauma. Born and raised in Hong Kong, she enjoys exploring the diverse culinary scene in LA, going on road trips, and indulging in the vibrant café culture that the city has to offer.

Research Assistants

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Derek Balsamini

Derek Balsamini is a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in psychology from Montclair, New Jersey. He actively engages in volunteer work with children in hopes to better prepare him for a career as a children’s therapist. He hopes to attend graduate school to pursue a degree in social work after his fourth year. In his spare time Derek is a DJ, radio host, and Trojan Knight, keeping him heavily involved in the local Los Angeles area.

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Gabriella Fetchko

Gabriella Fetchko is a Junior at the University of Southern California where she is majoring in Psychology. Her goal after achieving her undergraduate degree is to go on to get a PHD in Clinical Psychology and become a psychologist for children who have experienced trauma. Her research interests include the impact of trauma on development, anxiety disorders in children, and PTSD treatment for adolescents.

Volunteer Research Assistant

Jennifer Ouyang

Jennifer recently graduated from USC and is now working as a volunteer post-bacc research assistant at BEAD Lab. Her research experience primarily focuses on child studies – she derives immense joy from working with children and is constantly inspired by their genuine curiosity and pure intentions. In addition to her research interests, she’s also a big fan of anime and K-pop. You can often find her attending concerts in the LA area.

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Kylie Cox

Kylie is a current junior at the University of Southern California majoring in Human Biology.  She aspires to attend medical school after completing her undergraduate degree. Her research interests involve developmental and behavioral neuroscience.

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Lauren Clark

Lauren is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Psychology, minoring in Entrepreneurship, and on the Pre-Med track. Her goal is to attend medical school after completing her undergraduate degree and pursue a career in pediatrics or women’s health. Her research interests include the development of anxiety disorders, as well as the development of different attachment styles.

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Lauren Oh

Lauren Oh is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in Cognitive Science. She is interested in pursuing a career involving behavioral therapy and other related interventions. She is currently on the Pre-Med track. Her research interests include developmental anxiety disorders and cultural neuroscience.

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Luella Soranson Way

Luella is a second-year undergraduate double majoring in Psychology and Cognitive Science with a minor in East Asian Language and Culture. Currently on the pre-med track, she has previously completed her own independent research on Selective Mutism in bilingual and immigrant children. Her journey in the clinical setting has so far focused on employing Parent-Child Interaction Therapy adapted for children with Selective Mutism. An aspiring clinical psychologist, Luella volunteers weekly at a local elementary school, leading science lessons for a second-grade class to gain more experience working with children. Luella’s research interests pertain to adolescent anxiety, bilingualism, and the connection between parenting styles and infant attachment. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, trying new restaurants around LA, and surfing!

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Melissa Ochoa

Melissa is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Southern California. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis. She volunteers at elementary schools to gain experience working with kids in order to attain her goal of becoming a school psychologist. She loves working with children and hopes to apply her expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. Her goal is to promote the mental health and physical well-being of students especially in vulnerable and underserved communities.

Volunteer Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ramiro Rodriguez Sanchez (he/him) is an undergraduate psychology student at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). He is currently a McNair scholar, research assistant on the PERCH research team and Dr. Anupama Joshi’s peer study, and a Mental Health Peer Educator for the Student Psychological Services at CSUDH. Ramiro’s research interest focuses on examining the development of internalizing and externalizing disorders as well as their predictors. Ramiro is interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in developmental psychology after completing his undergraduate studies.

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Sara Lloreda

Sara is a second year undergraduate student majoring in Cognitive Science and double minoring in Psychology and Law and Forensics and Criminality. Currently on the pre-law track, she is interested in the intersecting fields of abnormal and social psychology; as well as in finding a way to combine her passion for justice with her passion for psychology. Her research interests include the development of mental illnesses, emotions, and how humans function as social beings – how social relationships develop and the impact they have on individuals.

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Vianca Lopez Molina

Vianca is a first-year undergraduate student at the University of Southern California majoring in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and minoring in Health Care Studies. As an aspiring pediatrician, she volunteers at local elementary and middle schools to gain experience working with kids. On the pre-med track, Vianca is interested in pursuing a doctoral degree after completing her undergraduate studies. Her research interests lie in the complex relationship between genetics, diet, and cardiovascular disease as well as child development and psychology. She hopes to use her education and training to treat patients and further educate Latinx families about healthcare.

Dog-torate Students

Dog-torate Student

Kodi Monachino

Kodi is a beagle-shepherd mix who graduated in 2019 with her B.S. (Best Service) in Dog. She currently works as a service dog alongside her handler, Alexa. Her research interests include olfactory perception and canine experiences of food consumption. When she is not working (and often when she is), she enjoys sniffing any and all scents, eating, and – most importantly – napping.